My husband and I just celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary. When we married I had a lot of hopes, dreams and expectations. Some of them were even realistic! Since I grew up with a single parent I remember wondering what married couples talk about, especially in the evenings. I didn’t really know what it was like to have a man around all of the time, so I had some apprehension about how marriage would be. But I married him with stars in my eyes and love in my heart. Our marriage has been good but in some ways it turns out I married a stranger. Oh, I knew he was a good man and we had similar values. He treated his parents and me with love and respect. He loved our Savior, Jesus Christ and living gospel principles was important to him. We had fun together and I loved being with him. He also wanted to have children and I loved him dearly and so we began our lives together. But, there have been many things about him that have surprised me. When we married he was working as a school psychologist and kept school hours. He was home by 4:00, even though I didn’t get off work until 5:00. He was usually busy working at other things while I was still at work. I tease him that I married a mild mannered school psychologist who turned out to be an entrepreneur. The signs were there that he was entrepreneurial but I just didn’t see them. At the time besides being a school psychologist he was teaching community education classes, writing a column for a newspaper, doing hypnosis to help people quit smoking as well as doing a home business of upholstery. Of course now I look back and realize all of the signs were there. Actually being a hard worker is a good thing, I was just pleasantly surprised by it.
When we had been married about 5 months he was offered a job as a program planner with a developmental center for people with intellectual disabilities. He took the job and so began our venture into the world of developmental disabilities, a cause he has become passionate about. Since that time he has started a nonprofit organization that supplies services and staff to help people with developmental disabilities be successful in their lives. Through his hard work the company has expanded to several states and to several thousand employees. I have told him that he is recreationally impaired because he would rather work than play. There was one time I even told him I would never go on another vacation with him because all he mostly did was work while the kids and I played. It was not a fun trip!
It’s not just his work ethic that has surprised me. Even though he has traveled much during the years for business, he usually made time for our family. Our children respect and love him dearly and know him to be a man of integrity. They know he will do all in his power to help them in their lives, and that his love for them doesn’t change based on what they do or don’t do. I know he prays for our children daily often takes the long view with them. Because of that our children call him almost daily just to say hello and talk about their day or to ask for his advice. Of course he has regrets as a parent about being away so much and about missing many occasions but we all have things we would do differently as parents. I think that even if he hadn’t traveled so much he would still have regrets because parents are just imperfect people. But I believe he really tried to be a good dad. He told me once that he kept growing the company because the bigger it got the more financially stable we were. We have 8 children and families cost money and he took his role as the provider seriously. I think love for his family and his passion for those with developmental disabilities fueled his work ethic. It was hard having him gone so much but I knew he wasn’t playing but working hard for us. I really didn’t know when we married what kind of dad he would be but I have been grateful that he is the dad of my children.
As he was and is a good father he is also a good husband. He frequently puts my wants and needs before his own. It’s the little things like letting me choose the restaurant when we eat out or deciding what to do on our dates. He will send me a text to “buy it” when he knows I’m shopping because he knows I’m cheap sometimes. I love how he holds my hand when we’re walking along somewhere together. He peels an orange and offers me half of it. Anything I bring home he will assemble because he knows it gives me anxiety to even think about putting something together. He supports me in my church callings and by his examples encourages me to do and be better. He values my happiness and will work to solve problems we have and not just dismiss what I want. I never have to wonder if he’s telling me the truth. He tells me frequently that he loves me. Did I know that he would be this way when I married him? Definitely not! But of course I hoped so. So really I married a stranger in some ways, and I got lucky because he is even better than I thought. I now know what couples talk about in the evenings, and what it’s like to have a man around all of the time. I’m glad he’s that man. He is a good person, dad and husband and I hope we are lucky enough to have another 34 years together. Happy Anniversary my Love!
When my husband and I were newly married we often had tomato soup and tuna sandwiches for lunch after church on Sundays. The only problem was I liked my tuna with mayonnaise and tomato soup made with milk. My husband liked his tuna with miracle whip and his tomato soup made with water. I couldn’t believe he liked it that way! After a light teasing about who had better taste and who was right, we came up with a solution to the dilemma. Whoever made lunch would get out two pans and divide the soup and put half into each pan, and to one add milk and to the other add water. The same happened with the tuna. It would be divided into two bowls and to one was added mayonnaise and the other miracle whip. Even though this was extra work it went on for several months and solved the problem of accommodating completely opposite tastes. One Sunday after church my husband was making our usual lunch of tuna and soup and I noticed he only had one pan out and one bowl in which to make them, and he was making them the way I liked them. I asked why and he responded it was just too much energy to divided everything, and being the kind person he is, he did it the way I like it. We have done it that way since then, almost 34 years. Yet, if he hadn’t simplified it, I would have kept it up because it’s so easy to get upset at stupid things and to let little things become big things. Little, unimportant things like tomato soup and tuna sandwiches get blown up out of proportion and cause unkind feelings between people. I once read a letter someone submitted to an advice columnist. It seems that the wife liked to keep her peanut butter in the cabinet and her ketchup in the refrigerator and the husband liked to keep his peanut butter in the refrigerator and his ketchup in the cabinet. They had been fighting about the right way to store them and they were asking the columnist to solve the problem. The answer? Keep ketchup and peanut butter in both places, the cabinet and the refrigerator. So simple, and if I had been the one to write the letter asking for help I would have wondered why I hadn’t thought of that obvious solution. Maybe I would also have wondered why I had spent so much energy and unkind thoughts on something so insignificant. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in who’s right or the emotions of the situation that we don’t get to the problem solving stage. Most problems have solutions and if we take a few minutes to think about it we realize that usually it’s just a matter of taste or even habit, not what’s morally right. Realizing this allows us to think of solutions to problems that confront us and then everyone wins. Relationships take a lot of effort, energy and compromise but when both people are happy, life is good. I have found the when I take the time to focus on solutions to the problems that confront my husband and myself that we’re both happier.
This is going to seem like a funny thing to write about, but recently my husband came home with two metal dust pans that are extra wide. I had been complaining that my nice, metal dust pan had disappeared and the one I was using was cracked and floppy. With a lot of people going through my house I sweep a lot. Every time I pulled out my broom and floppy dust pan I grumbled inwardly because my really good, nice dust pan was gone. Every time I swept leaves off our driveway I grumbled because my nice, metal dust pan was gone. I had searched for it but couldn’t find it anywhere, and I had really tried to find it too. I looked for a new one at a few stores but the metal ones are only available at a hardware store, and I hadn’t been to one yet. So when he walked into the house and presented me with the dust pans, one for the house and one for the garage, I was super excited. Even though there was not a jewel in sight, this was one of the nicest gifts he’s ever given me. This was a very thoughtful gift because in some ways it wasn’t really about the dust pans. The real gift he gave me was that he listened to me and heard what I was saying. Then he did something about it. He went out of his way to buy them and then bought not one but two. So every time I sweep my floors or my driveway I think of his thoughtfulness and love and I feel warm inside. Every time I see them hanging on their hooks I think of him and feel a deeper love. So in some ways he really gave me two gifts, the dust pans and listening to me. The funny thing is that listening to me didn’t cost anything and he didn’t have to go out of his way to do it. Listening to me only took a few moments of his time. Listening to me was a simple act of love and the best gift of all!
Several years ago a man from a store called and left a message with me for my husband. He wanted me to let him know the pig hooks my husband had ordered had come in. So dutifully when my husband got home from work I passed the message on. My husband was very puzzled. He didn’t know what I was talking about and he didn’t know what pig hooks were. He kept asking questions and shaking his head in total confusion. After a few more questions and he finally figured out what I was talking about. The man had the hog rings that my husband had ordered. I said “pig hooks, hog rings-sounds like the same thing.” It seems that in my mind I had inadvertently translated hog rings (a type of fastener for fencing) to pig hooks (which it turns out there no such thing). It lent for a lot of laughs for several days but it really illustrated some of the problems with communication. People say something they think is accurate but it turns out not to be accurate at all. I honestly thought it was pig hooks. Sometimes this miscommunication leads to frustration and even anger. And there’s been lots of times I thought my husband and I were talking about the same thing only to find out later he had something totally different in mind. We’ve even had conversations where I thought we decided something only at some point to figure out he thought we decided something completely different. I would get really mad at him and tell him he was only half listening-again. Of course getting mad never solves any problems, and it usually creates even more problems. Over time he and I have learned to ask a few questions, and then when it’s an important conversation to sum up what we decided and who’s doing what. Sometimes I even write it down (I have thought about having him sign it but…). Occasionally in summing up what I think was decided he will correct me and then we find we have more to talk about. But that’s what communication is for-to come to a clear consensus and to know what each other is thinking and what the outcome is we each want. Learning to communicate clearly has been a long process that for the most part we now do well at. It took assuming each other wanted to communicate clearly, was committed to the relationship and really wanted to be united on an issue. It basically took a lot of patience and love.
There’s only one time I ever semi-seriously thought about divorce from my husband. We had been married for about 10 years and had 5 children. My husband travels for his business several days a week and at this time it was often just me and 5 very active children, and breaks away seldom happened. It was hard to get sitters for my kids because they were so active and they usually wore a baby sitter out. One time I overheard a group of girls from my church talking about babysitting and heard one of them say about our family “they pay great but it isn’t worth it.” So in hope of time away I had signed up for a craft class on a Saturday afternoon which would provide a much-needed respite for me, and I was really looking forward to it. My husband had some work to do at his office and promised to be home in time for me to get to my class. I got ready to go and got all of my supplies packed and I was really looking forward to the project I was going to do. The time came and went when he was supposed to be home. I tried calling him but he didn’t answer the phone. It was too late to try to find a willing and brave sitter. The class started and he still didn’t come home. I was so upset that he hadn’t come home and I had missed the class. When he finally got home I asked him what had happened. He had more work to do than he thought and had decided to finish it. That was it. Nothing urgent, or serious or even necessary. He just stayed to finish his work which he could have done on Monday. I was so hurt and mad, and I remember later driving down a road crying and wondering if I could stay married to him. As I thought about it I figured out the real issue-could I stay married to a man who didn’t value what I wanted to do just as much as what he wanted to do, who didn’t think that what I wanted was just as important as what he wanted. Later, when I had calmed down, I told him that at some point he had decided that what he was doing was more important than what I wanted to do or he would have kept his promise and been home on time. He didn’t get it. Over the next few days I kept trying in different ways to calmly explain it to him and he still wasn’t getting it. I remember riding with him in a car one day and trying again to tell him that at some point he decided that what he was doing was more important than what I wanted to do or he would have stopped working and been home on time. Suddenly the light went on in his eyes and he got it. He finally understood what I was saying. He apologized and promised it wouldn’t happen again, and you know what? He has diligently tried to keep that promise. Maybe I kept trying to get him to understand because I knew he was a good man. Since then he has been conscious of my time and has really made an effort to be aware of my interests and if I wanted to do something he has done what he can to make sure I could do it. For me, staying calm, thinking about what the issue really was and then persistently addressing it was key. Of course it helps that he’s a good man.
My mother and father divorced when I was about 3 and I never saw my father again except once, and even then I didn’t know who he was at the time. I was about 13 and visiting my grandmother and as I was walking up the path to her house a man was coming out of her front door. He passed by me without looking at me or saying anything and I barely paid attention to him. When I entered my grandmother’s trailer she said “that was your father” and I remember thinking that if I had known that I would have paid more attention to him. I’m not sure why he wasn’t a part of my life but my mother once said that she and my stepfather told my father that he didn’t have to pay child support if he never contacted me or my brother again, and since he didn’t contact us again he obviously thought that was a good deal. My mother had married again to a man I called dad and he’s the only dad I remember. While he was not the best husband or dad, I did learn from him to treat all children as equal. He never distinguished between my brother and me and the children he had with my mother. He and my mother divorced when I was about 10 and sometimes was involved in our lives. My dad had married again and his new wife once apologized to us for keeping my dad from being involved in our lives. She said she found reasons to keep him from visiting us and eventually realized that was wrong. I say all of this as a way of stating I didn’t have good dads. When I married a really good man I was lucky and also got a really good father-in-law. He was a kind, tender-hearted man who called me daughter, not daughter-in-law. He brought me produce from his garden and orchard, and after he went fishing he would call us to come for a fish dinner with fresh corn and tomatoes from his garden. Once when I visited him in the hospital he teared up when I came into the room and told me he loved me and kept saying how glad he was that I came to visit him. I felt like he loved me. He was such a kind man, and I once told him he was the best dad I ever had and he couldn’t believe I said that. He kept saying “really?, really?” My husband remembers being quite young and his dad building a tent out of a blanket and reading Bambi to him under the blanket with a flashlight, one of his sweet memories of his father. Family meant everything to my father-in-law! From this good man I learned that dads can be involved in their children’s lives and what a difference it makes to welcome and love those your children marry. I also learned that there are good, honorable fathers in the world who love their children and spend time with them. My husband has followed in the footsteps of his father and he is a good dad who loves our children. He has worked hard to provide them the necessities of life, and to set a good example of service, kindness, hard work, faith, generosity and love. Our children know they can talk with their dad about anything and he won’t scold them but listen and offer good advice when asked for. They know him to be man of integrity who would do anything he can to help them. I have learned from him to patiently listen, to act and not react, to focus on the good our children are doing and to always take the long view and hope for the best. In many ways I am fortunate not to have had good dads while I was growing up because I now recognize what a good dad is from the contrast. I have told my children many times that they are fortunate to have such a good dad! Sometimes my husband wonders about things he could have or should have done with our children. I see the many good things he did do and his goodness as a father is reflected in the lives of our children who are good people doing good things. Being a good dad is giving of your time, self and life to your children. How blessed I am to know good dads and to have them in my life!
Many years ago, in an effort to be more providential, I decided I would use our powdered milk from our food storage instead of letting it go to waste which I had been doing. It was a hassle to mix it and I didn’t like the taste of it so I had rarely used it. Through experimenting I did find that if I mixed it up at night and it got really cold and used it on cereal it was passable, and actually hard to tell it wasn’t fresh. Even at that some of my kids didn’t want to try it. So one night my husband was mixing up the powdered milk and he told the kids that this milk came from desert cows and that’s why it was dry and we had to add water to it. He explained that there’s not very much water in the desert for the cows to drink so it came out powdery, and of course he was just having fun with our kids not thinking anyone would really believe him. Well, our kids were fascinated by this and the next day my then 5-year-old said to me “mom, I want some of that desert milk” and then everyone else wanted to try it too. After that the kids started calling it desert milk which made it a lot more fun than calling it powdered milk. Seems like a little humor and creativity made even powdered milk something desirable.
Years ago, when my husband and I had only been married for a few years, I told him that he was the most unromantic person I knew. He didn’t bring me flowers or want to go dancing, we didn’t do quiet dinners in romantic places and there was no candle light to be seen anywhere in our home. I think I hurt his feelings with this announcement because he still remembers it and talks about occasionally. It took me a while but then I noticed that he would call me during the day just to say hi, and this was before cell phones. Sometimes when it was cold at night he would get into bed and lay on my side to warm it up so I wouldn’t have to get into a cold bed. Often he would ask me to run errands with him just so we could spend a little time together and he always remembered that I like the soup spoon instead of the teaspoon to eat with and made sure that’s what I got when he set the table. One day it dawned on me that I had bought into how the world defined romance with flowers, candlelight and dancing and that real romance was something much deeper. It was the simple, sweet expression of love in little ways that he showed for me that was there all along and I hadn’t noticed it. Turns out he’s the most romantic person I know!
My husband and I haven’t always agreed on child rearing methods and practices. He is more lenient, kinder and if our kids came to him asking for money he had his wallet out asking them how much they wanted before they even finished asking him for it. He believes, and rightly so, that you treat a person as you want them to become and you just love them. I believe that’s important too but that child rearing needs rules such as everyone has jobs to do in a family which allows people to feel good about contributing, being a valued and important member of the family and teaches them to work. If they wanted to have some extra money, I had a lot of extra jobs they could do to earn it themselves. He feels that rules are important too but that you mostly lead by example and kids learn from what they see their parents doing, and of course he’s right again because kids do learn from what you do and say. He is a hard worker, he’s honest and faithful to responsibilities and commitments and so our kids will learn to be also (and they have). I think children and teens earn trust, respect and privileges, especially as they grow older and as our children grew older he thought that they just got more privileges because they were getting older. I think that by giving kids everything they want they develop a sense of entitlement. He once told me that he naturally deferred to how he was raised, that his parent treated him with respect and love and he just always wanted to measure up. I have pointed out that he was always a good kid, that he didn’t lie to his parents and steal from them to feed a growing drug habit or to just buy something they wanted. That he didn’t sneak out after his parents went to bed to meet up with his friends, that he wasn’t doing illegal things when he was with them and that he was morally clean, and most importantly that he didn’t have mental health issues that clouded his thinking. We basically approached child rearing from very different viewpoints.
If we ever had disagreements it was usually about how to handle a problem with one of our children. And sometimes I would be really mad at him but through it all, I always tried to remember that he loved our kids just as much as I did and that he wasn’t trying to be difficult or stubborn but that he truly thought that how he wanted to solve the problem was the best way to do it. Remembering this helped me to focus on the issue, to listen better to what he had to say and to try to understand him and then to compromise. In compromising we tried to combine some of his ideas and some of mine. Usually we ended up with a better way to deal with the problem. Sometimes when there could be no compromise, that it had to be one way or the other we went with the one who felt the strongest about the issue and sometimes we just took turns doing it the way one of us wanted. And I have also tried to focus on that he was an involved parent, that he was there physically and emotionally, he didn’t defer everything to me and take the easier path of noninvolvement. He loves our kids just as much as I do.
I recently had a conversation with one of my sons-in-law. He was telling me that he wished my daughter, his wife, was a little more conscious of household duties like doing the dishes and laundry. He works full-time and she’s a stay-at-home mom with two kids. She’d rather make great meals (she loves to cook), read and play with the kids (they don’t have TV), sew fun things and volunteer at her son’s school. She agrees with him that she should be a little more aware of household duties and recognizes that households run smoother when orderly. This was a great opportunity for me to talk about the concept that no matter who you’re married to there will be things you don’t like about them and you can focus on those things or rejoice in the things they do well. For example, my husband is man of many talents and great virtues but he is very messy in his work areas and our bedroom, and he’s usually not really present when I’m talking to him but he is honest, kind and thoughtful. I never have to wonder if he’s telling me the truth or not. He calls me during the day just to say hi and I know he loves to spend time with me. I know he would give me his last bite of food if we were in a dreadful situation and he would go without eating. He’s loyal through and through. He fixes things in the house quickly and if I want to change something like flooring or paint he usually cheerfully does it. He actually makes goals to improve himself and works on them and I love and adore this man. I can focus on the wonderful things about him or I can get upset that his socks are on the floor again. In some ways, when I focus on the socks on the floor it’s like saying I expect him to be perfect, that I’m not allowing him to be human. Yes, he probably should pick up his own socks and put them in the hamper but I recognize that all of the good about him far out weighs the bad and when I focus on the bad neither of us is happy in our marriage (unfortunately I know this from experience). The amazing thing is I never hear him complain about me, and there is plenty to complain about. He doesn’t tell me what I do wrong or what I need to change about myself. He loves me as I am, which is paradoxical in some ways because since he never criticizes me or points out things that I do that are not great, it makes me want to improve myself and to be even better than the person he thinks I am.